Rig safety: How to stay safe when the temperature drops

In January, the average daily temperature in Fort McMurray, Alberta, is ­-17 C (about 1 F). That’s chilly, but ask anyone drilling in Western Canada (or the northern U.S.), it can get a lot colder.

“Temperatures in northern Alberta and British Columbia vary, as does the corresponding wind chill values. Mother Nature can be a handful. That’s why we try to anticipate all environmental challenges,” said Dwayne Barrett, Field Safety and Compliance Supervisor with Trinidad’s Canadian division.

Trinidad has policies in place to keep our employees safe when they are exposed to cold temperatures, wind or rain. We ensure heated rest areas are available, and we train our teams on guidelines to follow while working in the elements.

Here are some steps you can take to protect yourself when the mercury drops. 

How to protect yourself from the cold

Be sure to eat right

  • You have increased energy requirements while working in the cold, so make sure you’re eating wholesome foods such as pasta, potatoes, rice, dairy products, nuts, meat, herring and salmon. And don’t forget to eat light snacks during breaks.
  • Consume warm fluids at work for energy, warmth and hydration. Dehydration can increase susceptibility to hypothermia.
  • Limit your caffeine. Caffeine affects hydration.

Learn to dress for the weather

Here are just a few tips (if you’re an employee, consult your safety manual on working in cold temperatures. Best practices are outlined there in great detail):

  • Layer your clothes: When you’re working in the cold, it’s very important that you don’t sweat and become damp. Layers help manage moisture, and they can be shed if you get too warm. Plus, a middle layer will help trap warm air escaping from your body.
  • Remove your outer and middle layers when taking breaks in a heated area. This will help prevent overheating and allow dampness to evaporate. Change into dry clothing when necessary.
  • Here are two tips about handwear: 1. Mittens are warmer than gloves. 2. Wear thin liners under your handwear to give you protection if you need to remove your mittens.
  • Wear a hat! Up to 50 per cent of body heat is lost through your head. Use a hard-hat liner to reduce heat loss when you’re wearing a hard hat. If the temperature really drops, you may need to wear a facemask or eye protection.
  • Warm, insulated safety footwear is essential!

Educate yourself

Sometimes it’s just too cold

Trinidad follows government standards for how long employees can be outside in cold temperatures and strong winds. If wind speeds increase or temperatures drop below a certain point, workers are required to cease all non-emergency work. For example, if temperatures are -32 C to -34 C with 32 km/h winds, we shut down. 

Safety at Trinidad Drilling

Trinidad is committed to keeping everyone on our team safe every day. That’s why we have safe work practices developed for both hot and cold temperatures.

“Trinidad Drilling is a leader in health and safety, and as a result, we have considered the environment as one of the key challenges,” Barrett explained.

Want to learn about staying safe in the heat? Check out this post:

Note: This blog post is not meant to reflect all Trinidad’s safety policies and procedures for working in cold temperatures. If you’re an employee, please consult your safety manual.

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